Testing Education To Death?

April 20, 2007

“No Child Left Behind,” and the frequent tests mandated by that federal law, are widely seen by educators as a distraction from the real business of teaching and learning.

Now there’s talk- and it apparently is just talk, at the moment- of taking government-required standardized tests to the college level. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings is spelling out nothing specific yet. There’s vague discussion about somehow measuring the effectiveness of individual colleges and universities, and presumably the tests could be linked to their public funding- in ways positive and negative.

The people who run colleges are being careful not to over-react, but they are reacting.

collegestudents.jpg “I think that it is probably important that parents and students have some way to understand that when you send a student to ‘x’ institution, that a student will come out the other end knowing more than when he or she first started,” said Sandra Hurd, associate provost at SU.

“I am certainly not opposed to assessing student learning, to demonstrate that students learning is important. I am just having a really tough time understanding how a standardized test is going to do that.”

The Daily Orange

Colleges assess their own students, of course, and we’ve all heard about “grade inflation,” which in some cases gives students credit for more than they learn, know, or are capable of.

Maybe the true test of a college education is how good a career students can have after graduation, how they’re regarded by their families, their peers and their employers, and how their college experience has enriched their personal and cultural lives. Those are some of the things that really matter, and they are things no government-ordered test can measure.

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More Power To Us!

April 20, 2007

Governor Eliot Spitzer got a jump on the Earth Day observance with an ambitious power conservation and production plan this week. He calls for an abrupt turnabout in rising electricity use to help fight global warming, at the same time the state builds new energy-conserving power plants.

eliotspitzer.gif Mr. Spitzer said he also planned to pursue a major expansion of the state’s generating capacity in coming years, calling it necessary to build more power plants even if energy consumption remained level because prices would still be too high. Electricity is more expensive in New York than in almost any other state.

Along with the governor’s speech, state officials announced yesterday that they had approved contracts for the construction of 21 clean, renewable-source power plants. In his speech, Mr. Spitzer said the contracts were worth $295 million and would attract an estimated $1.4 billion in private investment. Construction of those facilities, all of them upstate, could be completed as early as next year, he said.

The New York Times

Those new plants, unfortunately, do not include the canceled Siemens generating station in Syracuse that would have burned renewable willow shrubs, and might have been the basis for a municipal power company in the city.

Spitzer wants to move power sales in the state to a model that guarantees utilities a certain level of revenue, no matter how little power they sell. Without the other half of that equation- generating cheaper power, we’ll keep on paying some of the biggest electricity bills in the nation.